Farmers, ranchers, orchardists and growers of all levels share one common, perennial problem: Weeds. "Even people with small lots have problems with weeds," said Sarah Wilson, a seasonal employee with Mesa County Noxious Weed and Pest Management. Wilson and co-worker Melissa Bamford were manning a booth Friday at the demonstration plot open house, held at the Delta County Fairgrounds in Hotchkiss. They were busy handing out pocket guides to noxious weeds and fielding questions.
This is the second year the open house has been held, and the third year the test plot has been open to the public, John Rizza, a regional specialist in small acreage management with the Colorado State University Extension and the National Resources Conservation Service in Grand Junction. The event attracted roughly 10 organizations and businesses. About 60 visitors took advantage of demonstrations and information on a wide range of subjects including livestock and range management, new technologies and equipment for irrigation, soil health and biology, and the benefits of tilled and non-tilled soils.
The two-acre test plot offers 34 rangeland grasses, all suitable to Western Colorado climates and equally divided between irrigated and dry-land species. The plots are managed just like a farmer would manage crops, said Rizza. That helps farmers and ranchers decide whether some of the grasses might be compatible with their land, be it for a cover crop, to build and amend soil, or to feed livestock.
"Agriculture is the cornerstone of this community," said Rizza. There's a balance between managing agricultural lands in a way that saves them for future generations while making a profit and feeding their families. The event offers information on the tools and methods that can help farmers, ranchers and growers do both more successfully and efficiently.
The test plots are the result of a partnership between Delta County, CSU Extension, the USDA and the Department of Natural Resources and Conservation, the Delta Conservation District and the Colorado Association of Conservation Districts. "The county has been really supportive, and that's important," said Rizza. "This has been a really good partnership. Without it we wouldn't have the success we've had."